Family Road Trip of Trips
Ever fantasize about packing up the family and traveling around the world for a year?
Well…that’s exactly what Rainer Jenss, his wife, Carol and their two sons, Tyler and Stefan (then 11 and 8 ) did. To do so, they sold their house in Nyack, New York and put all of their possessions in storage. Rainer took a leave of absence from his job as Vice President & Publisher of National Geographic Kids. Carol left the ad agency she had worked at for 19 years.
For exactly one year, the four of them traveled to 28 countries. They started by crossing the United States, then moved on to China, and the last stop before coming home was Costa Rica.
We had an opportunity to sit down with Rainer, who has since started Smart Family Travel (a media and marketing firm that promotes family travel) to hear all about it. Here’s what went into the trip and what they got out of it.
Farewell Travels: When did you hatch the idea to do this and whose idea was it?
Rainer: We seriously thought about taking a trip like this shortly after we got married and before we had kids. After our first son Tyler was born, we pretty much stopped talking about it for several years. Then the idea came up again. It was after we visited my sister in London and realized how much the kids got out of it that we thought taking a trip around the world would be even better and more appropriate WITH kids! So we decided to go when the kids were the perfect age.
Farewell Travels: Were you and your wife both on the same page, determined to do it, or did one of you have to pull the other along?
Rainer: We were on the same page. That was not the case years earlier before the kids were born and that’s why we didn’t do it earlier. The kids seemed the perfect reason to do it. We both felt strongly that showing them the world at a young and impressionable age would be the perfect foundation for success in the future. A great way to enhance their education.
Farewell Travels: Prior to the trip, did you and your family travel much?
Rainer: Yes. We were notorious for leaving home for weekend getaways – and still are. We also traveled quite a bit around the country and visited Europe on a couple of occasions to visit family. The Caribbean was also a favorite.
Farewell Travels: How did you plan the journey? And how far in advance did you start planning?
Rainer: We planned and saved for four years. For us, it was a lot of fun to plan. Honestly, that’s the way it should be. Looking at a world map and deciding where to go is exciting stuff!
Farewell Travels: How involved did the boys get in choosing the destinations?
Rainer: They definitely got involved. We gave them a puzzle of the world to do and they selected places as we completed it together. They particularly liked the name “Swaziland” and wanted to go there. I told them we’d compromise and go to South Africa instead.
Farewell Travels: Once on the road, what would you say was the biggest challenge?
Rainer: Parenting the kids. It’s pretty tough to discipline your children with threats or “time outs” when you’re in new places with so much to see and do. Fortunately, they were pretty well behaved during that year.
Farewell Travels: What was the most rewarding aspect of the trip?
Rainer: Realizing how adaptable the boys were to all the different types of places we visited. They pretty much embraced everywhere we went. Carol and I learned to never underestimate what they might like and be interested in.
Farewell Travels: Would you encourage somebody else to do this sort of trip?
Rainer: Absolutely. Even though they missed a year of school (they were home schooled), they still got the best year of education in their lives. And there are other families doing it. You’d be surprised how many.
Farewell Travels: Any suggestions on what NOT to do?
Rainer: Don’t try to see too much too fast. Sometimes, less is more, especially when traveling – and with kids. Take your time to make sure you get a real sense of a place.
Farewell Travels: Do you think it has impacted any choices your boys make today or talk about for the future?
Rainer: Yes. Both boys are very eager to travel more. My oldest son has already shown interest in studying abroad.
Farewell Travels: Anything else you might like to share with our readers?
Rainer: I encourage all parents (and grandparents) to travel with their children early and often. Traveling not only opens your children’s eyes to the world around them and gives them different perspectives on how to do things, but I believe strongly it will also open doors of opportunity for them in the future. After all, we live in a global economy, so gaining a better understanding of different cultures and having a broader world view will be very important as they set out to find their way.
See the video of this trip.